The Future of Digital Magazines

How Ceros Media is creating digital editions that “draw upon the best qualities of the Web”.

While digital editions shouldn’t be a publisher’s only online publishing strategy, they are quickly creeping up on the magazine industry. If you are a magazine publisher and haven’t looked down this avenue, you might have another thing coming. You might think that users prefer paper, but you’d be surprised to know that users now prefer to have both, and you don’t really have a choice unless you’re prepared to be the underdog.

The 2007 BPA-Certified Digital Magazine Reader Survey found that:

  • Digital magazine reader satisfaction rates remain high, 88% of readers are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their digital edition, an increase of 3% from 2006.
  • Digital magazine readers are highly engaged with the digital edition; 89% read the digital edition the same week and 42% read it immediately or the same day.
  • Digital magazine readers are reducing their use of print, making digital magazines critical for reaching these readers. Over 44% of respondents have decreased their use of print in the last twelve months. This is an 11% rise from the 2006 survey in which 33% of respondents had decreased their use of print.

Today we’d like to introduce you to one of the larger digital magazine providers, Ceros Media. They publish the digital editions for clients such as Marie Claire, BBC, and National Magazine Company

With their platform, all individual pages of each magazine are optimized for search. If you google “miss gobbledegook”, you’ll find that the number one result is page five in Monkey Magazine. According to New Media Age, Monkey Magazine has recorded an increase in its ABCe figures to a new high of 271,667, up 10.7% month on month. It is the third successive month Monkey’s ABCe has climbed.

Something else we’ve noticed about the Ceros platform, in comparison to other digital magazine providers, is that their look is extremely clean and their interface is intuitive. Not only is it search engine optimized, easy to browse and delivered digitally, it is as classy and elegant as the brand it is representing.

We had a chance to talk to Dominic Duffy, co-founder of Ceros Media to ask him about Ceros and the future of digital magazines.

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1. How would you define the mission of Ceros?

“Ceros aims to become the de facto standard format for interactive online magazines. Rather than simply provide a mechanism with which print magazines can be duplicated online, Ceros is positioned to combine the levels of interactivity simply impossible to provide in print, with the levels of engagement and regular, repeat readership so difficult to achieve with a ‘traditional’ website. In doing so, Ceros provides a hitherto unavailable format with which advertisers can confidently create eye-catching, interactive adverts that are not subject to the restrictions of everyday web ads.

After all, on a ‘traditional’ website, an ad that occupies half, let alone the entire readers computer screen is anathema – it simply cannot happen. Everybody reacts the same way to popups and even banners or skyscrapers need to be sold in large volumes to provide a return. But in a magazine everything is different. Readers not only expect full page or dps ads – they often like them. The same real-estate within a cohesive, interactive online magazine can therefore be used to great effect.

Ceros provides publishers;

  • the ability to produce compelling magazines that draw upon the best qualities of the Web (interactivity, immediacy, dialogue and feedback);
  • the ability to determine, in real-time, volumes of readership and importantly;
  • the ability to monetize.

Ceros provides advertisers;

  • a platform from which they can exercise real creativity and truly engage – without alienating the reader;
  • the ability to move well beyond product or brand awareness campaigns and actually hold a dialogue with the reader and;
  • the ability to deliver ads in a format that is subtle, yet maximises the likelihood of reader views (you don’t know an ad is on the next page until you turn to it – and see it).

Ceros provides readers;

  • an intuitive, friendly and compelling experience that encourages them to return on a regular basis;
  • a medium from which they can experience rich media in a compact, cohesive and seamless magazine package.”

2. Do you find that video advertisements in your digital magazines are a big hit with advertisers?

“Video ads work extremely well. In a recent 6-week campaign with Wilkinson Sword, Monkey Magazine (from Dennis Publishing) encouraged readers to send in videos of themselves shaving in different locations of the world. The campaign was nominated for an award (cross-media campaign of the year) and netted the publisher a six-figure return. The advertiser has since run a second campaign in the same magazine. The prevalence of movie trailers and game previews highlights an easy sell for publishers in a model that simply combines print ad with TV or movie Ad. Recently, Universal, AOL, VW, Bacardi, Sony, Ford and Touchstone have all used the Ceros format to great effect in this model. When combined with truly interactive content, such ads become extremely effective.”

3. Do you provide publishers with new media ads, or do they work through their own advertisers and bring them to you?

“Often, publishers are using existing relationships to create the kind of engaging, creative ads made possible by the format. Wherever these relationships cannot deliver such content, we work in partnership with the advertiser (sometimes via their own media agency) to create bespoke advertising content.”

4. What is the role of the advertiser in the creation of a digital magazine?

“The interactive nature of titles in Ceros format is such that advertising actually plays a key role in engaging the reader. Rather than being invasive (as is often the case with web advertising) ads in Ceros format actually form an integral part of the reader experience. Take a look at this ad for Carlsberg in Monkey Magazine. This was created specifically for the Ceros format and proved a huge hit. Likewise this ad for 686 in Onboard North America or the ad for MSN in New Media Age.”

5. Are they responsible for the development, or do they merely hand over the creative?

“We have a comprehensive API (programming interface) and publish extensive rich media guidelines to ensure that development need not be undertaken by ourselves but by agencies, advertisers and publishers alike.”

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6. How big does a publisher need to be to work with Ceros?

“Big enough to publish a magazine! We work with very big publishers and very small publishers. Wherever there’s an audience there’s a magazine and wherever there’s a magazine, there’s a case for Ceros.”

7. Have you considered newsletter publishers?

“Our traditional client base is magazine publishers but the number of incoming enquiries from other sectors including government, finance and books illustrates Ceros’ wide appeal. Its use for newsletters makes sense although this is a sector we have yet to pursue.”

8. What kind of traffic and click feedback do you offer publishers?

“We provide real-time ABCE certified stats on Opens, Views, Visits and in partnership with the ABCE technical committee we will also report dwell times.”

9. What are the interactive aspects of your digital magazines for users?

“Just about anything our partners, agencies, publishers or advertisers can conceive online. Anything seen online can be published in Ceros format. Combine this creativity with the Ceros API and the whole thing has a life of its own!”

10. I noticed in Monkey Mag, that there is background music playing that sounds like a busy Cafe. Is that part of the magazine theme, or part of an embedded ad?

“This will be part of an embedded ad. Music actually works very well in ceros format. Take a look at this mag for BBC. You’ll see that throughout the magazine, readers can listen to audio clippings of the CD’s being reviewed in the editorial – it makes perfect sense!”

11. Do you think it’s possible that companies other than Publishers could benefit from this technology? Such as film studios that might offer a free magazine with some copy and clips from a movie?

“Definitely. In fact take a look at this piece for Ford, or this one for Best Buy. Both examples of brands engaging directly with the consumer.”

12. I’ve noticed on supermarket websites, they will sometimes link pictures to their ads. Do you think this is something for the future of this product? Such as on page 4 & 5 of Marie Claire on this page?

“It’s possible right now. Blue magazine, published by our licensees in Spain, contains product pages that have a direct link to sales sites (pages 22 and 23)”

13. How do you see the future of digital editions evolving?

“This depends very much on what we are talking about in terms of ‘digital editions.’ In my view they have, for too long, been synonymous with online facsimiles of print magazines that happen to let the user turn pages. This is no longer a viable offering for the consumer. I’ve used the word often in my replies, but it is key that the online content interacts with the reader. Today’s online consumer expects as much. Ceros provides just that.”


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